Where does resilience come from? I struggle with this point so often that it has become my major downfall. I have made nearly no progress towards my goal of getting on stage in the last month, and have in fact backslid by adding to my bodyfat without adding to my lean mass. While this, in and of itself, is an issue, the real problem is that this gives rise to such debilitating shame that I just stop trying for long periods of time.

This means I stop trying to stay on my nutrition plan, I start making excuses not to go to the gym, I start punishing myself by denying myself access to progress and my passions. This self harming behavior comes out of the attitudes of my family while I was growing up that made all failure unacceptable and treated these failures as permanent marring stains on my personal history that will always hold me back. I grew up thinking that I had to earn the right to love myself with success, and that failure meant contrition and punishment.

In my adulthood, this leads me to some seriously self harming acts of denying myself things that I love and feel passionate about because I feel like I don’t deserve them. While this may sound like something that on the surface is easily fixed by just “pushing past it”, the sensation of not being worthy of success or effort is so much more harmful than it sounds. I start undoing progress because I haven’t suffered enough to deserve it, I berate myself into giving up on even the small steps towards the goals that I spend so much of my day dreaming of. Essentially, I treat myself in ways that if there were someone else treating me this way, the courts would throw my abuser away for lives at a time.

This pathological urge to suffer in order to seem worthy of my goals makes it very hard for me to ever come close to them. Even writing this out is painful because I’m embarrassed and ashamed to be this weak and inconsistent, which only adds to this ongoing downward spiral. I want to stop eating or eat only junk food. I want to skip the gym to sleep, and then stay up all night working on things because I don’t deserve sleep until I’ve put in enough work. When loving yourself is conditional on a list of ever changing criteria then it becomes a real challenge to feel satisfaction and pride, and nearly impossible to be resilient in the face of failure or setbacks.

I want to point out that admitting this is not easy for me. It’s actually horribly embarrassing and makes me feel like a self-indulgent child petulantly demanding that the world should be easier (and while it definitely should be easier for a lot of reasons, that is a topic unto itself). But, I’m doing this because one of the best ways for me to move past these destructive impulses is to be mindful of them. When it takes a special concentrated effort for me to see the light at the end of the tunnel it becomes hard to imagine that I will ever make it out and into something better.

I don’t want anyone to read this and look on me with pity or sadness, but I also am a little over having these setbacks confused with laziness and apathy. We don’t all perceive opportunity with the same eyes and ambition is hard for some of us to summon when we’re struggling to justify our roles in life to ourselves.

Bodybuilding is my way of showing that mental illness isn’t a life sentence to mediocrity and adequacy. With luck, circumstance and effort we can all achieve greatness, even if only to ourselves. Sometimes It’s enough to be able to say “I am worth it” to the mirror and believe it.

They say you should always work to be your best because you never know who you might inspire. As trite as that may sound, I think it holds a mote of truth, so, on days when I most feel unworthy of happiness and success, I will work to remember that I am not just doing this for myself, but to make a point. Here’s to competing on stage in 2017 everyone.

Pictured: Me posing a front double bicep for the first time without a mirror and really mucking it up. Lots to do yet, and lots more to come. Also, I love this tank that one of my dearest friends got me. Pure nerd mass right there.

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